Tony Brooke’s view: the NQ solicitor jobs market in July

Stay positive…

We are towards the back end of the annual ‘NQ season’ and so this will be the last blog for the September 2017 qualifiers. Whilst things are still happening, August as a month is one in which it is notoriously tricky to get new activity moving, purely due to mass absences in annual leave.

How the market has performed

I decided to look at our statistics as a business, and of the total number of 2017 qualifiers which Florit Brooke has acted for this year, by the close of July just over 65% of them had fallen out of the market. By that I mean they are no longer looking for roles, so have either stayed put with their firm, have secured a role elsewhere, or in some cases, have formulated a life plan for the immediate future which means they’re no longer looking for jobs.

In terms of a pattern of candidates who we have seen exit the market, 16% of those we have acted for dropped out in May, 25% in June, and a further 16% in July, so I’d say the market has peaked in terms of decision making and acceptances internally and externally. It is an annual pattern so there is no surprise here.

Organisations which we have seen make NQ solicitor job offers in July really do span the whole range – US firms in London, national brands in Leeds, niche commercial firms in West Yorkshire and in-house departments. Again, it is a market with a rhythm to it and so every year we do try and encourage patience, and to let the market do its thing as it won’t be forced.

Who is left…

By inference there are therefore close to 35% of 2017 NQ candidates still active and receptive to roles. That figure will, in reality, be significantly lower because some simply haven’t yet updated us in terms of what is happening to them, or we know they have a somewhere sorted (where they will likely remain) but are still passively watching for a better opportunity, and a few will be qualifying in the last quarter of the year and so have more time to make their move. My estimate would be that, at most, 20% of the 2017 September NQs now are without a job of one sort or another. So competition is significantly less than it was eight weeks ago – that’s good news!

We are still getting new registrations, and usually those candidates are wanting to qualify into niche areas with limited demand and so the market hasn’t provided much yet and consequently those candidates are trying other intermediaries such as Florit Brooke. All are welcome, but this late in the day it’ll be a question of what hasn’t already been done, or what we might be able to do better!! The key to making the most progress now is to open up with your recruiter, give them the full picture, and see if they can re-visit places where they may have new information or stronger influencing relationships with the client.

Oh, and we are still getting new roles for which September 2017 NQs will be considered, so there is every reason to throw your hat in the ring if you are still wanting (or needing) to secure something.

Running down the clock…

As a closing comment to those who have now sorted a role, there is a really good argument for you maintaining a high level of performance for your current firm, the one which has trained you. Whilst you might think you’ll never need their goodwill again I can assure you that it is in reality a very small legal world indeed. Firms merge into other firms and bring former colleagues back together. Partners move role and find their new team includes previous colleagues from yesteryear. And deals bring together former colleagues on the opposite sides of the table. The potential touchpoints are endless. Overall, you cannot have too many friends in your legal career, and you never know what might happen so I’d always urge lawyers who are moving on to keep their composure and try and depart on the best footing possible.

Sadly, some training firms do not behave in similarly proper way. One sad comment I heard this month from an Autumn 2017 NQ was “as long as I qualify I can take all the abuse in the world”. In that instance a candidate had secured a move to a better firm, with more structured training, on stronger NQ money, in a more favourable location and so had every reason to celebrate. Yet, due to this firm’s previous treatment of departing trainees, their primary feeling was one of fear and apprehension about telling their firm they were not remaining beyond qualification, and the negative consequences and backlash that they expected, to the extent they feared their firm wouldn’t sign off their training record to get them qualified.

Luckily the firm who has hired them through us is being supportive, has looked at their contract, and is working with them to manage their departure and arrival as best they can. The candidate is keeping their head down, and I am sure will not look back once they’ve left! If you are similarly fearful, just enlist your recruiter’s support and the backing of your new firm and it’ll be fine, although not a nice way to end several years with an employer.

So, to next year…

Given the August lull and the imminent mass qualification in September, our NQ blog will fall silent now for a few months, however we will still be working with candidates and clients to find the right NQ roles for the right individuals.

We’ll also as a business be preparing for the 2018 qualifiers, and how we’ll engage with them and assist them in a unique period of their career – any reader who wants to recommend Florit Brooke to a friend or colleague, then we’d be most appreciative. And the JLD groups around our region we’ll be planning with in order that we can have a programme of events through into next spring time.

Hopefully there has been some useful perspective and content in what I’ve said since January, and for now I’ll sign off by saying ‘congratulations’ to those 2017 NQs who have secured their next step, and ‘best wishes’ to those for whom their NQ move is still work in progress – stay positive, and make the most of whatever opportunities come your way.

Still looking for a role? Hoping make an early start on your search for 2018 NQ positions? Give us a call to discuss your ideal role.

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